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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Ivan Arrives with Destruction and Devastation

Aired September 15, 2004 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper, live in Mobile, Alabama, straight in the path of a killer storm.
360 starts now.

Time is running out on the Gulf Coast as Ivan the Terrible heads to shore. We are live tonight from Mobile, Alabama, in the path of the storm. The latest projections and forecasts. Are you in Ivan's path? Tracking the killer hurricane on 360.

And Martha Stewart doesn't want to wait. A surprise announcement, she wants to go to prison as soon as possible.

ANNOUNCER: This is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: Good evening.

I'm live in Mobile, Alabama, and we are right in the heart, right in the path of Hurricane Ivan. This hurricane is expected to make landfall in several hours, but conditions here are deteriorating rapidly. Hour after hour today, the winds have picked up, so too has the rain. Now the rain is falling much harder. The winds just in the last hour have picked up significantly.

Looking at a live shot of downtown Mobile, Alabama, an area expected to be hit and hit hard later this evening.

Also want to show you a shot from down on the street. Here in Mobile, down on the street -- or actually, that's Panama City, Florida, where the waves are already crashing in. Panama City, Florida. Panama City Beach has already experienced two fatalities.

Now you're looking at a live shot, downtown Mobile, Alabama, being swept by winds and rain. And, again, Panama City, Florida, where those waves are pouring in. Two deaths have been reported in Panama City Beach, Florida, and the hurricane has not even touched down. Those deaths were reported from tornado, tornadic activity, two people dying when they've sustained injuries when the structures they were in collapsed.

Sadly, we expect to be hearing a lot more stories like that over the next several hours.

Here in Mobile, the people have largely evacuated. Those who haven't are hunkered down now, because this storm is coming, and it is going to hit hard, and they know it. It is still more than 100 miles off the shore.

But every -- with every minute, this winds are picking up. Right now, just to give you a sense, we're getting sustained winds of about 30 miles an hour or so. We are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- anticipating feeling winds of 130 miles an hour. There have been wind gusts up to 165 miles an hour. It is going to be 100 more miles an hour. It is going to be an extraordinarily tough-hit city here in Mobile, Alabama.

You're looking at the radar track. It is a very large storm stretching out. It is not -- it's the biggest -- it is not the most powerful storm that we have seen, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) extraordinarily big storm, and it is going to cause a lot of damage. That is the fear here in Mobile, Alabama.

Already this storm has shown itself to be a killer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Grenada felt it first, the tiny Caribbean island no match for the massive storm. Thirty-seven people died, 90 percent of the island's homes leveled.

Next came Jamaica, and Ivan was still a category five, 155 mile- per-hour winds hammered the island. Flooding claimed lives. By the time Ivan left, 17 Jamaicans were dead.

Cuba was lucky. The storm spared Havana, but now it is heading directly for us. All eyes on the Gulf of Mexico, where the storm is swirling. On shore, the fear and anxiety mounts. Most who could get out have already done so, and during long hours on interstates heading to higher ground.

LT. GOV. TONI JENNINGS, FLORIDA: We cannot in any way diminish the complexity and the strength of this storm. If you want to do a comparison, it is the size of Frances, but the impact of Charley. So when you think about what could happen to our panhandle area, combine those, and use that as your criteria.

COOPER: The governors of four states in the storm's path declared emergencies and ordered people out. And those who remain were warned that it could get ugly, very ugly.

(on camera): Here in Mobile, Alabama, where the storm is expected to come ashore, residents who haven't evacuated spent today frantically trying to get ready. Stores have shut down. You can't find gas. And this is one of the last places you can find ice.

(voice-over): Stephanie Smith stood in line for three hours with her daughter Cassidy just to buy one bag of ice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm scared.

COOPER (on camera): You're scared? What are you scared of? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm scared that the storm is going to rip our roof off.

COOPER (voice-over): Some residents, however, don't seem so concerned. They plan to ride out the storm at home.

(on camera): Do you think it's going to be really bad?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think it's going to be bad.

COOPER: But you're not evacuating?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

COOPER: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm in a safe place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) amazingly, that was shot just about three or four hours ago. You can tell how much the conditions have already deteriorated as darkness falls. That's what is so scary about this storm. It is going to be hitting when it is pitch-black out. Electricity will be off. And you're not going to know what is coming at you. It is going to be a very dangerous storm indeed.

Panama City Beach, Florida, already, as we said, has experienced two fatalities.

Let's check in with David Mattingly who is in Panama City Beach, Florida, tonight. David, what's the latest?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson.

We confirmed with county and local authorities a short time ago, there are indeed two fatalities from this storm here in Bay County, both of them from tornadoes, quite a ways apart, two separate touchdowns.

Now, you can see the wind has been picking up here. It has been constant all afternoon, rain coming and going. What happened, we had one of those bands of violent weather coming through here, the leading edge of this massive storm coming through here.

In that was quite a few tornadoes, according to local authorities. They don't know exactly how many. They have two confirmed touchdowns, and each of those cases, they say, there was extensive property damage and two people were killed when their homes were struck by these tornadoes, the people dying, they say, of trauma and wounds they received in that touchdown.

Also right now, they're watching the surf. People are saying they're not -- they didn't expect to see the surf pounding this hard, this soon, from this storm. Yesterday I was doing reports from this very location, and the water was, well, maybe 50 yards that way. You can see that the water is now coming up occasionally up to this location. And we've got a long way to go before this -- the true heart of this storm gets here with its full fury, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, David Mattingly, we'll check in with you a little bit later on in the program.

We're going to talk right now to CNN's meteorologist Rob Marciano, who's standing by with me.

Rob, it's not, I mean, it's bad already, but it's going to get a lot worse.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is, Anderson. I mean, we will sustain, we only have about 30 mile-an-hour winds. So, I mean, it's not even tropical storm force yet, let alone hurricane. We did have a little gust earlier of about 64, but, you know, other than that, it's...

COOPER: So it's 35 (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but it's going to be 135 in a little while.

MARCIANO: Well, the important thing to remember is that those are the maximum sustained winds in the strongest part of the storm, so the right front quadrant of the storm, not the entire eye is seeing 135 mile-an-hour winds.

But if this thing tracks the way we think it's going to track, and that would be either up Mobile Bay or just to the west of us, we could be in that right (UNINTELLIGIBLE) quadrant getting 135 mile-an- hour winds.

There is the satellite, Anderson, a well-defined eye. If anything, it's gotten a little bit better organized. The latest advisory brings -- That's, by the way, that's tropical storm Jeanne. We'll get back to that a little bit later.

There is Ivan. Look at the eye. It is 50 miles now across, Anderson. It's got a little bit better organized, but the winds are still at 135. Still a strong cat four, still heading north at 14 miles an hour, at 14 miles an hour. So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 100 miles just off the coastline. It's going to be making landfall shortly after midnight along the coast, and we're about 20, 30 miles up from there.

So we should see the front part of the eye wall, if it remains on its track, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 in the morning.

COOPER: Is there still a chance that it could change direction last minute? I mean, that's what we saw with Hurricane Charley.

MARCIANO: We saw that with Hurricane Charley. And a similar circumstance with Hurricane Charley exists with this hurricane, that all the models, all the computer models are (UNINTELLIGIBLE), have converged the past couple days right here. They did that with Tampa and Hurricane Charley, and it took a last-minute dive to the right. The importance of... COOPER: Now, this is a big gust right here.

MARCIANO: Yes. This is a pretty big gust right here. But it always feels a little bit worse than it is. Just remember that. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that's only about 30 miles an hour (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COOPER: It's amazing, because, I mean, this stuff feels (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I can't believe that it's going to be 100 more miles an hour than this.

MARCIANO: It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) atta tee, at its height.

MARCIANO: It's crazy even to think that.

Of course, the other thing that we make such a big deal of, besides the winds, are the storm surge. We're standing right now on the fourth floor of this hotel, the reason being is because we do expect the waters to come up to at least the first floor, at least the entrance, if not higher than that.

We're right along the Mobile River. All this water is trying to dump up into Mobile bay as that storm approaches, as you know. Especially if we're on the eastern side of it, water's going to come up and pile up. They had a storm here in 1979, Hurricane Frederic. Storm surge from there was about 12 feet. We expect this to be higher than that.

COOPER: All right, Rob Marciano, we'll check in with you a little bit.

Because minute by minute, this is getting worse and worse.

Susan Candiotti is in Biloxi, Mississippi, and she's been checking in with some folks who've decided not to evacuate, and they say they're going to ride this thing out. Let's see her report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had quite a few remembrances after Hurricane Camille.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lieutenant Greg Federico (ph) has seen his share of hurricanes, including Camille, Betsy, and Georges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water is probably halfway up the beach already.

CANDIOTTI: His job, as Ivan's fury draws near, checking on anyone refusing to follow mandatory evacuation orders. For them, there is paperwork to sign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a form locating where they're going to be, where they're staying, giving a physical description, next of kin, and, unfortunately, even a choice of funeral homes.

CANDIOTTI: As we drive along the coast, mortared by boarded-up historic homes facing the water, we come upon a woman walking her bike. Mary Catherine Adams is riding out Ivan with her husband and 90-year-old mother in this stately two-story home on the national historic registry.

(on camera): There is the Gulf. And that's Highway 90 that runs along it. And this is how close the water is to the Adams family home. Yet they insist they will be safe from the storm surge. Let's hope so.

(voice-over): The family plans to hunker down on the second floor.

(on camera): You feel just a little bit nervous as the storm approaches now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a little too tired to be nervous. I may get nervous as soon as the wind starts picking up and when darkness comes. It is usually frightful, because you hear sounds.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): The lieutenant not thrilled with her decision to stay, but no one is being forced out.

Farther down on the bayou, he checks on Henderson Point, where the water's already rising. There is a family that won't change its mind about staying put.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, if the water comes up, we will not be able to get back in to get you all out. So you all aware of all that. We wish you all a lot of luck, and be safe.

CANDIOTTI: And as he leaves, Lieutenant Federico calls it an officer's nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a tough decision that they've made. I just hope that they ride it out safely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: Of course, it wasn't raining when we talked with those people. But it is starting to rain now. Not much of a wind to speak of as of yet. And it's not as though those people who are deciding to stay put are not without supplies. They do have them, food, water, candles, and the like. They simply feel as though, OK, we have been through this before, we have survived other storms. We think, they say, we're taking an informed chance.

We hope they are. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I certainly hope they are as well. Susan, thanks very much. We'll check back with in with you.

We're having a little bit of trouble even standing in this location. The winds really picking up. I want to talk to the mayor of Mobile, Alabama, Mike Dow.

We appreciate you joining us, mayor.

MAYOR MICHAEL DOW, MOBILE, ALABAMA: You guys are having all the fun.

COOPER: Well, not yet. It's going to get a lot worse. How is the town? Are you guys ready?

DOW: We're ready. We're ready. Kind of heartsick about it coming through. We got a beautiful town. It's all been rebuilt, but just don't want any loss of life. We can rebuild whatever falls. We have done it before.

COOPER: How many people have evacuated? I mean, do you think most people have gone?

DOW: Oh, I think a great number of people. I think they took this very seriously, and our estuary out there, I think we evacuated it pretty successfully. That's the big thing.

The water damage is what really hurts people. And, you know, the wind blows things down. But the real deaths usually come from water. And I think we have done a good job of getting people out of harm's way when it comes to the big water.

COOPER: The area we're in now, which is downtown, I mean, do you expect this area to be flooded out?

DOW: It's flooded with lesser storms. You'll get four or six feet down here, where you see right down here. Possibility, we don't know what's going to happen, guys. We're just -- this is a big storm. It's the equivalent of bigger than Frederic.

COOPER: Because, I mean, they're talking (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I mean, at a height, 20...

DOW: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: ... 20-foot storm surge.

DOW: ... own unique character, so you can't really in advance say what's going to do. Depending on which side of the city it goes on, it could make a difference. How long it sits on you makes a difference. And we're just preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. That's all you can do.

COOPER: That is all you can do.

DOW: Absolutely.

COOPER: And the message to residents tonight, I mean, they still have power...

DOW: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... COOPER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DOW: ... the message is, be in a safe place, evaluate where you are. This is a pretty good-sized wind, and just be in a safe place if you aren't already gone.

We spent a day and a half trying to get people out of here. Hopefully most of them have gone.

COOPER: Right, now, you sent your family out, and I know you're going to be weathering the storm here in the emergency center. We'll check in with you later.

DOW: OK.

COOPER: Appreciate you joining us.

DOW: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COOPER: Mayor, good luck to you.

DOW: OK.

COOPER: All right, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras. As we mentioned, in Panama City Beach, there have been two deaths from tornadoes. Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta, who has some, has some news on other tornado activity. Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, they're under a hurricane or a tornado warning once again into Panama City at this hour. We also have the report of a tornado on the ground, this one in Georgia, in the southern Baker, Decatur, Early (ph), Grady, Miller, and Mitchell Counties. That's all these counties right here.

A tornado was spotted near Peoples Still. This is about a half an hour ago, some other places in the line of fire here. Hoggard Mill (ph), Cooktown, Hawkinsontown, Mimsville (ph), also Bethany and Crestview.

So a spotted tornado on ground at this hour.

Around the Panama City area here, the tornado possibly near Broad Branch at this hour, heading towards Fountain and also towards Country Oaks. This one is a radar-indicated tornado.

We want to show you the radar picture at this time and show you some of these bands. These are these feeder bands that are moving in across the area. This one is moving a little bit slower to the north and west, about 35 miles per hour. These are moving about 40 to 50 miles per hour. So as these individual storms make their way onto the coastline, a lot of them have rotation. I think we're going to continue to see these warnings throughout much of the evening.

And Anderson,, also, one other note, right where you are, just to the south on Dauphin (ph) Island, we have a wind gust report around 60 miles per hour, so those very strong tropical storm-force winds are starting to push in, and we'll likely see those hurricane-force winds in very shortly.

COOPER: Yes, Jacqui, but in terms of touchdown time, what do you see for when this thing makes landfall?

JERAS: Well, it looks like it's going to be sped up just a little bit. The 7:00 advisory is just coming in, that's Eastern time. And it looks like the motion is staying steady to the north around 14 miles per hour. So it could be just after the midnight hour.

We'll have to watch and see if this stalls down just a little bit as it moves in towards some of these cooler waters. But right now, it's actually showing some more signs of strengthening, so that's actually not very good news, Anderson.

COOPER: That is not good news, that's not good news at all. Hey, Jacqui, if you see any tornadoes in the downtown Mobile area, give me a call, all right? I appreciate it. We'll check in with you a little bit later on.

There's a lot of other news happening, both in the United States and around the world. For that, let's go to Paula Zahn, who's standing by in New York. Hey, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Anderson. You look like you need to be tethered to something shortly.

So in that other news tonight, convicted drug offender and former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry is back in politics.

That story tops our look at news cross-country.

Barry, you might remember, won a majority of votes in the Democratic primary race for a city council seat. He is all but assured victory in November. Barry served four terms as Washington's mayor. He also spent six months in prison after being caught smoking crack cocaine in an FBI video.

Trenton, New Jersey, no special election for the governor. Governor James McGreevey will resign this November. Last month he admitted to a homosexual affair. Two citizens filed a federal lawsuit. They wanted him out now, with a special election to pick his replacement. A judge threw out that suit today.

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a missing 12-year-old girl is found safe after her stepfather commits suicide. Police have been looking for the pair for 10 days. Twenty-eight-year-old James Hudachek had left a note saying he was in love with the girl and that he would rather die than not be with her.

In Los Angeles, another strange twist in a story here. The mother of two of Michael Jackson's kids wants a different custody deal. A source tells CNN that Debbie Rou (ph), who divorced the pop star in 1999, says her two children need her more right now than they need their dad.

And in New York, no professional hockey this season, at least not for now. The NHL has locked out the players. Their labor agreement ends at midnight tonight. The owners say they have to fix the league's economics before they will start the season.

That's a look at stories across the country tonight.

360 next, Martha Stewart's surprise announcement. She wants to go to prison now. Find out why she wants to be out by spring, and when she may be headed to the Big House.

Plus, Hurricane Ivan storming the Gulf Coast. We are bring it to you live as it unfolds.

But first, your picks, the most popular stories on CNN.com right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It is starting to get dark here in Mobile, Alabama, and the winds picking up. We are anticipating a very long night, and we are going to be here all night long, bringing you into the heart of the storm.

Right now, though, some other major news. Let's check in with Paula Zahn in New York. Paula?

ZAHN: You got a brave soul. Thanks, Anderson.

And while Ivan makes news down South, Martha is making different kind of waves back here in New York. It is quite unusual for a convicted defendant to address the public before going to prison. But then again, Martha Stewart is not your ordinary felon.

And today, in what was one of the more surreal news conferences we have seen in quite some time, the homestyle maven says she is ready for jail now. She says she hopes to be back in time to plant her spring garden.

And Stewart's parting words for all of us, "See you next year."

Adaora Udoji reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was short. Martha Stewart spoke in her company's great hall less than 15 minutes. But the consequence profound.

MARTHA STEWART: I've decided to serve my sentence now to put this nightmare behind me.

The only way to reclaim my life and the quality of life for all those related to me with certainty now is to serve my sentence, surrender to the authorities, so that I can quickly return as soon as possible to the life and the work that I love.

UDOJI: Stewart is free while appealing a conviction for lying about a 2001 stock sale. She is choosing to serve her five-month prison sentence now, though if her appeal was successful, she wouldn't need to. But that could take a year.

At times emotional, she said prison frightened her, but two years and seven months was long enough for her family and her business to suffer. And her business has struggled.

STEWART: I firmly believe in the future of this company, and know that its best days are still ahead of it.

UDOJI: Analysts said it was a good move, as her stock bounced up 12 cents.

DONALD SELKIN, JOSEPH STEVENS AND COMPANY: They have lost money now for a while, and they need to convince shareholders that they can be profitable. So only the longer term will tell. But near term, it was a positive.

UDOJI: Stewart talked about the sadness of missing the holidays, her dogs and cats, about hope she'll go to the Danbury Federal Prison in Connecticut, not far from home, so her 90-year-old mother can visit.

STEWART: I would like to be back as early in March as possible in order to plant the new spring garden and to truly get things growing again.

UDOJI: Before she left, a touch of humor.

STEWART: And I just have one little joke, because, despite what you all might think, I do have a sense of humor. And I was walking in front of the General Motors building the other day, and there were a group of very well-dressed businessmen standing outside. And they looked at me, recognized me, and said, Oh, she's out already.

Well, I hope that my time goes as fast as that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UDOJI: Bureau of Prison officials say that generally it takes two to three weeks to process someone like Martha Stewart. They are anticipating that generally, I should say, Paula, they try to place people within a 500-mile radius of their homes, but they make no promises. As I said, they expect that it will take two to three weeks to find a placement for Martha Stewart. So relatively speaking, she should find out soon where she will serve her prison time, Paula.

ZAHN: Adaora, thanks so much for the update.

And joining me now for more on Martha Stewart is CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Always good to see you, Jeffrey (UNINTELLIGIBLE). JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Hey, Paula.

ZAHN: How bizarre was that news conference?

TOOBIN: It was certainly weird to hear her talking about how much she's going to miss her seven lively cats. But, you know, it was a very smart move by Martha Stewart. Her appeal chances, notwithstanding what she said at her news conference, were slim and none. All she would do is prolong the uncertainty that is crippling her company.

By getting this thing over with, she is back in action next year, and she can continue to do the work that she obviously cares so much about. This was a...

ZAHN: So, Mr. Prosecutor...

TOOBIN: ... smart decision.

ZAHN: ... or former Mr. Prosecutor, are you basically saying that the primary motivation for doing this was to prop up her company? Because we saw, shortly after this news conference, what happened to the stock price.

TOOBIN: That's exactly what I'm saying. And it's exactly...

ZAHN: It went up 6 percent.

TOOBIN: Right, and that's exactly what she's saying. I mean, one of the things, as a student of Martha Studer, Stewart, I have learned, is that this woman is obsessed, absolutely obsessed with making this company grow and prosper. And it has had a terrible two years during this crisis.

The only way she has a chance of getting it back on its feet is giving shareholders some certainty and saying, Look, I will be back in action at this precise date. That's when we get back, it, get it back together. This is the way to do it. Prolonging the appeal would only prolong the uncertainty, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) she would wind up in jail even -- anyway.

ZAHN: So you think the appeal is an nonissue now?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, interestingly, she didn't drop the appeal. The appeal is still going. And that could have consequences for some of the civil law, lawsuits. You know, if she remains a convicted felon, that will make some of the civil lawsuits against her harder to defend.

But mostly, the appeal will now be an academic exercise. If she's serving her sentence, that's the real issue. And she's got five months in prison, five months under house arrest. And, you know, she really will be out pretty quickly, and she'll have a chance of reclaiming her empire pretty soon.

ZAHN: So we may see her spring garden after all. Jeffrey (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

TOOBIN: You know what? I think she will.

ZAHN: Thank you.

Today's buzz is this. Do you feel sorry for Martha Stewart? Log onto CNN.com/360 to vote. Results at the end of the show.

Well, in addition to keeping an eye on Ivan, we're watching some political storms tonight. Coming up at 8:00, in the race for the White House, we will have some brand-new numbers in the fight to win one of the do-or-die battleground states.

There is also thunder from the right over those disputed CBS documents on the president's National Guard service.

Plus, Lou Dobbs will be joining me for a stormy debate over the candidates, the outsourcing of American jobs, and whether either one of the candidates has a plan to keep jobs in this country.

Now back to Anderson Cooper, if he's still standing, in Mobile, Alabama. There he is indeed, getting blown around quite a bit. Hi, Anderson.

COOPER: Hey, Paula. Yes, I'm clinging onto this rooftop. We'll see how long I can last for. We'll have more live from Mobile right after this break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're live here in Mobile, Alabama, where the winds are picking up pretty significantly. It seems, I mean, minute to minute, you'll get these big gusts of winds coming, these outer bands of the storm, just wafting, gone right (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right through this city.

The city has largely been evacuated, though there are many people who are still here, who have decided to just hunker down. That's a wide shot of our location.

Also want to show you down on the street here in downtown Mobile, Alabama, because they are anticipating a lot of flooding. There is some concern that the storm surge could be up to 20 feet, and that wall of water just coming washing over here in the downtown area, 12- block radius could be underwater in a matter of hours.

We're going to wait and try to ride out the storm here up on the top. We're about 40 feet or so higher than the street level.

Want to bring in Rob Marciano, CNN's meteorologist, check out how the winds are going. So this is nothing, you're saying. You're smiling, the...

MARCIANO: Well, yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we're not even close to hurricane strength yet. The latest wind gusts we've had, actually the last few minutes, just before we went on the air, sustained at about 40 miles an hour. So we're getting tropical storm winds now sustained, although I don't completely trust these things.

So I think we're going to go a little old school, Anderson. I think you'll like this, all right?

Let's say they're at about 50, all right? I'm going to teach you how to forecast or at least tell where the storm is. Turn your back to the wind for me.

COOPER: OK.

MARCIANO: Right there. Now, look left. That's where the storm is right now. That's the center of the storm. If we can turn your back completely to the camera, that means the storm is to the east of us, and we're kind of in the clear.

So when we can do that, that's a good thing. But for now, the storm is that way, and it is heading that way. So these winds are only going to get worse.

COOPER: Why is it the northeasterly winds are the strongest in one of these hurricanes?

MARCIANO: Well, northeast quadrant is typically the strongest, and we'll see the winds as they turn to the south and southeast. That will be the strongest part of the storm. Because you've got the storm moving at about 15 miles per hour, and then you couple that with the winds that are whipping around there, so you add at least 15 miles an hour to those winds.

Plus, over on the right side of the storm, you don't have those winds coming over the land. Coming over the land, you've got friction. There's no, not a whole lot of friction over the water. So right side's got the water, and it's got the forward movement. It's always the strongest side of the storm.

COOPER: All right. Rob Marciano, I'll check in with you later. Thanks very much, Rob.

Want to go to John Zarrella, who is in New Orleans. They expected to be hit hard by this storm. They're breathing a something of a sigh of relief, because it seems the storm has veered off a little bit to the right. It's going to be hitting more us, not so much them, though they are still anticipate some flooding.

Let's check in with John Zarrella, who is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With their three dogs, sisters Randi and Armid (ph) dela Gueronniere took the advice of local officials. They checked into a hotel and got to higher ground.

RANDI DELA GUERONNIERE, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: We should be in something really strong. These buildings have been here for 100 years, I imagine, or, you know, close to and they're a lot more secure than any of our homes. ZARELLA: The Astor Hotel was packed with New Orleans residents who didn't evacuate the city but chose instead to vertically evacuate. In this below-sea-level city, massive flooding from a major hurricane, 10 to 15 feet of it everywhere, stirs even greater fear than wind. Throughout the famed French Quarter, sandbags line storefronts, plywood covers windows and trucks were still unloading more of it.

Taking it all in, a group of conventioners from the National Safety Council. Thousands of them are here and stuck. With the airlines shut down, there is no way for them to get out.

LYNN STEBBRIS, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: It looks like the people that are at the hotel are confident and they're kind of on top of things so -- and we have gone to the store and we've gotten our water and we have gotten some soup and things like that. So we should be OK for a couple of days.

ZARELLA: And that's all it may be. Just a couple days. As Ivan turned it lessened the risk. Yet this city known as the Big Easy has for the past few days been anything but.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): Now behind me this is not the Gulf of Mexico. What you're looking at is Lake Pontchartrain which has overflowed its banks here. The water is coming in. Pretty steady gusts of wind here to tropical storm force about 40 miles an hour. Now we pan continuing off to the left here, what we can see is the flood protection levy. This is part of the levy that protects -- you see some people up there waving, walking on the levy -- that protects the city of New Orleans which is below sea level.

So it would have to take quite a rise in the water to get above the levy, which is designed for a major hurricane, a category 3 storm, or greater, making a direct hit here. That won't be the case fortunately for the people of New Orleans.

But many of the people who did leave the city earlier today and throughout the day yesterday got out of here. Others did not. They went vertical as you saw in the piece, went to hotels and checked in but still a lot of folks hanging around on the streets although there was a curfew imposed at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, Anderson, and although there was, there are still lots of people on the street. But, again, Lake Pontchartrain continuing to rise so the threat for some serious flooding still exists, but we have not seen any wind gusts up above 40 miles an hour, sustained about 30.

So hoping for the best here, again, Anderson. But they are as we keep hearing prepared for the worst -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We wish you luck there in New Orleans. John Zarella, we'll check in with you later. We're going to take a short break and be right back live from Mobile, Alabama, with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: We are live in Mobile, Alabama. Right in downtown Mobile, Alabama. Over on that side, that's the river, the Mobile river that actually feeds into the Mobile Bay. At the other side of the bay, the entrance to that bay, Gary Tuchman is standing by in Gulf Shores. Let's take a look and see how things are with him -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, hello. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Gulf Shores is a resort area in Alabama. Year round population 5,000 (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Right now Gulf Shores is completely abandoned. Up until about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rolling the bridge over the intercostal to the town. But those police officers now gone. They say it is too risky for them to stay so...

COOPER: We're having some trouble hearing Gary Tuchman. We'll try to get back in with him. Obviously there is a lot of water coming into his mike and he's on a video phone. So some trouble with that.

Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras who is standing by at the CNN Weather Center with the latest forecast. Jacqui, where is the storm now?

JERAS: Anderson, that tornado that I just told you about earlier on the ground has now been spotted. 24 miles southeast of Arlington. This is in southwest Georgia. There you can see what we call a sheer marker where that little spin is.

So that is where the tornado is at this time. It is moving up to the north and west at 35 miles per hour. We also have numerous warnings down here around the big bend, extending up towards Panama City. Again we're continuing to see these feeder bands push into the area and their individual cells within that feeder band and many of them are rotating and pushing back through the area.

Panama City getting hit over and over and over again. They can not let down their guard now as we have had several confirmed tornadoes in this area for tonight. Tornado watch in effect across all of the Florida Panhandle, extending over towards Mobile and the southern parts of Alabama and also into southwestern Georgia. And we can expect that tornadic threat through tonight and into tomorrow -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jacqui Jeras, thanks very much. Just lost IFB so we're going to go, we're going to talk to the mayor of Panama City Beach, Florida, where there have been two deaths already. But because I just lost the IFB in these strong winds, we're not going to be able to do that. I just want to show you a live shot here in downtown Mobile, Alabama, where the winds really are picking up. And as darkness comes, that is really where a lot of the concern comes.

You don't know -- you don't see what is flying around. There is concern about debris flying around. That's why they're really encouraging people stay inside. The streets are pretty much empty at this point but already you can see light posts kind of shaking and these winds are only right now like 35 miles an hour, up to maybe 40 miles an hour. It is going to get -- it could get up to 135 miles an hour at the height of the storm, at the strongest part of the winds right now have been clocked at 135 sustained miles an hour. Wind gusts up to 160.

So there is a lot yet to come. It is moving fast and minute by minute. We're going to take a short break, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We are live in Mobile, Alabama.

We're going to talk to the mayor now. Lee Sullivan, Mayor Sullivan of Panama City Beach, Florida, where they have already experienced two fatalities due to tornadoes. Mayor Sullivan joining us on the phone.

Mayor Sullivan, thanks very much for joining us. I know it is a busy night for you, indeed. What can you tell us about the two fatalities your town has already experienced?

MAY. LEE SULLIVAN, PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA: We had a tornado that came in on the east end of the beach out of the Gulf across the restaurant into some business area and residential areas. We suffered a fatality. Have some people injured over there, have some people still trapped in their homes over there. Obviously, the issue is securing the power before they can get to them, cars turned upside down.

Probably the worst thing that has occurred as a result of the storm, at least on the beach, the north end of the county, we have had a fatality at the north end of the county as a result, a confirmed fatality as a result of a tornado. May have had some extensive damage off the beach in the residential area on the east side of the bridge. And we expect, as you have said, we expect this to be the beginning of a long night.

COOPER: Mayor Sullivan, so the two fatalities and the injuries that you have experienced so far, that's really from trauma, from debris or from shelter material collapsing on those people? Is that correct?

SULLIVAN: The best we can tell, the deaths have resulted -- been a result of blunt trauma, yes.

COOPER: How many people in your town do you know have evacuated? How many remain? Do you have any sense of numbers?

SULLIVAN: We probably have seen a complete evacuation of the coastal area, all of the buildings along the Gulf of Mexico. We probably have seen at least a 50 percent evacuation of the residents north of the Gulf front. Probably the most serious of evacuation that I've experienced since I've been here, and I've been here since '56.

COOPER: If I'm correct, Hurricane Opal hit pretty bad in your town. What was the damage like then? And how do you think it will compare this time?

SULLIVAN: I was -- I had an opportunity to be the chief of police when Opal hit in '95. The eye came in a little to the west of us. It brought us to our knees over here. The worst damage that we suffered, and we had no fatalities, but the worst damage that we suffered was from the wall of water that came in and it blew out everything along the beach and after it blew it out, the wind picked it up.

We had the Gulf of Mexico encroach over the front beach road. I am afraid that it looks like for us that same thing is going to happen this evening. Even with the storm being as far to the west of us as it is.

COOPER: Well, our thoughts and our prayers are with you, Mayor Sullivan, and the people of Panama City Beach. We appreciate you joining us. Good luck tonight.

SULLIVAN: Listen, y'all be careful out there now.

COOPER: All right. We sure will. Want to talk to Max Mayfield, who is at the National Hurricane Center in Miami with the latest. Max, how does it look?

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, Anderson, I think Mayor Sullivan is absolutely right. The center will likely come on shore closer to Alabama, a little further away than Opal in 1995. But this is a larger hurricane, and a stronger hurricane than Opal was at landfall.

So, I think the mayor is absolutely right there, he's going to have a lot of storm surge and wave action here before the night is over. As soon as the eye gets up to the coast, the winds will switch around to the south, and that's when that water will really be pushed up on to the panhandle.

COOPER: Now, earlier people have been saying, all right, this thing is going to come maybe 7:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., now we're hearing maybe just a little bit after midnight. Can you tell us any sense of time?

MAYFIELD: Well, that's a tad academic here. Probably will be a couple of hours after midnight. But it's such a large hurricane, that we're talking about the absolute center of the eye. They're going to start experiencing -- already experiencing -- conditions and will deteriorate throughout the night. And at the time that the center comes on to shore there, we want to be really careful in urging people not to venture outside in that eye, because the backside is going to come across. And this is just the storm that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COOPER: What kind of storm surge are you expecting in the Mobile, Alabama, area or anywhere along this coast? Do you have any sense of how high it might get?

MAYFIELD: Well, sure. We're still forecasting 10 to 16 feet. And if you can see the projection behind me, this is all 10 feet along the barrier islands with values up to 16 feet up at the head of Mobile Bay if the track stays good and come a little bit to the west of Mobile Bay. But even on the barrier islands there, we're going to have these giant breaking waves, the buoys are reporting 50 foot waves off shore. Those will break as the system comes close to the coast. And that is going to cause, I think, just extreme damage here during the night.

COOPER: How does this storm compare to Hurricane Charley, to Hurricane Frances that hit Florida in this last month?

MAYFIELD: Well, Charley was a category 4 hurricane. And so it's as strong as Charley, but it's even larger than Frances was. So this is probably comparable to Hurricane Hugo that hit the South Carolina coast back in 1989.

COOPER: All right. Max Mayfield, appreciate you joining us from the National Hurricane Center. Thanks very much, Max.

MAYFIELD: You're welcome.

COOPER: We're going to a short break. And we will be back live from Mobile, Alabama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to a very windy and a very wet Mobile, Alabama. We want to show you the Mobile River, which is just over my shoulder. It's getting dark, but I think you'll be able to see it in this other shot. There it is.

Now the big concern here is this storm surge that may come. You just heard Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center saying it could be ten to 15 feet of water, wall of water basically washing over the downtown area. Now, let's show you that street shot.

We anticipate this whole area around downtown Mobile could be very well flooded. Some are saying up to 12 block area, and I don't know if you can tell in this picture, those flashing lights, that means A, you still got electricity, so that's a good thing. B, though, you probably can't see it, the camera is shaking a little bit, but a lot of those lights are also shaking.

And what is amazing is that at this point the winds are only 40 miles an hour sustained. Winds are going to get a whole lot worse. At the hardest part of the storm right now, it's about 135 miles an hour sustained winds. It is going to get very ugly. And we are going to be here all night long, sticking out this storm. I'm on until 5:00 A.M.. Bill Hemmer's going to be coming over. We're going to try to stay on all night long, all throughout the storm. So, we hope you stay tuned for that.

Let's check in with Gary Tuchman who is down at the other end of Mobile Bay, about 30 miles from me. And it is getting pretty bad down there as well -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right Anderson, we're hunkered down in this beach town Gulf Shores which is to your southeast on the east side of Mobile Bay. Let me tell you, this town population of 5,000 year round, but much more during the tourist season, virtually abandoned.

Up until a about 10 minutes ago, there were police officers behind me with the sirens on their cars blocking people from going over this bridge over the intracoastal onto the barrier islands. They have left. They no longer want to be here. They consider it now too risky. So, it is abandoned. If (UNINTELLIGIBLE) up and down the street in Gulf Shores, we have not seen one civilian there throughout the day. I have never seen such compliance for any hurricane we have ever covered. I can tell you that they're going to have serious problem in the Gulf Shores. They already had lots of flooding.

We actually, left the barrier island about an hour ago because the water was coming up to our knees and dangerous at that point. There was wood (UNINTELLIGIBLE) floating around the streets. And there are lots of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the beach. They will likely have a lot damage on that barrier island. Nobody is kidding themselves about that. They had a lot of damage 25 years ago during Hurricane Frederic, and that was a weaker hurricane. People here are very worried.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Yes, that flooding is going to be a major issue here. We're really watching it closely here in this downtown area as well.

Gary Tuchman, thanks very much for that. Not everyone here in Mobile has evacuated. I mean, I was out earlier today, saw a lot of people who were out buying ice, trying to stock up, trying to supply. They basically think they're going to just try to weather the storm, hunker down in their homes.

Want to talk to one of those residents here in Mobile, Karen (SIC) McGinley, she is on the telephone. She's in her house with her husband who is a doctor with her kids and her pets. How is it going for you?

KELLY MCGINLEY, CHRISTIAN TALK SHOW HOST: It is scary. We're very frightened. My name is Kelly McGinley. But...

COOPER: I'm sorry, Kelly.

MCGINLEY: That's OK, I know your voice sounds almost gone. You've been doing a lot of talking. We -- we went around and around. It took us hours and hours to make our decision. So it has been a very -- probably the most hardest decision we've ever made to finally decide to stay.

COOPER: Kelly, you're a Christian radio host here.

Why did you decide to stay with your family?

MCGINLEY: Well, my husband didn't want to leave. And then eventually then he did want to leave. So we all went around and around. Well, we don't know really why. What happened was a lot of our neighbors are staying. So we went through Frederic. My husband went through Frederic. It was very scary for him. You know, it is going to be several hours of a freight train sound going through our house. And we're very frighten and pray the house will hold up, will hold us, not too often people take responsibility and hunker down in a good strong home, that they won't have any problems, as long as they're not going to have floods or waves hitting them such at in the North Beach, Gulf Shores area.

COOPER: Kelly, where in your house have hunkered, because they say get into an inside room, get into maybe a small room, something that has good structural support. Where are you?

MCGINLEY: We're going in under the staircase. There is a cubby hole back there enough to fit -- there is eight of us with four dogs. And we'll be down in a cubby hole up under the staircase.

COOPER: Wait a minute there are eight of to you.

MCGINLEY: Eight, yes. My mother is here we've got two -- we've got three families here, four dogs and six cats.

COOPER: Good lord, you're going to have eight people hunkered down under a staircase. Do you have water, do you have food?

MCGINLEY: Right, we have already packed it with water and food and flashlights. We've got a chain saw there to get out. We have got boards and plastic nearby to be able to run out and hammer down something that flies open or breaks.

COOPER: How concerned are you about flooding, Kelly?

MCGINLEY: Well, we are in the 100 year flood plain. It could flood us here. Our house is up on pilings about five feet. So we'll see if we built it high enough, I guess. This will be the real test whether or not we built our house high enough. It is a two-year-old house. We're in a 100 year plain. We built it up on pilings five feet above the 100 year plain and we'll see how well it does. This will be the real test.

COOPER: It's going to be a long night for you. Do you think you're going to get any sleep or do you plan to be up all night?

MCGINLEY: I plan to be up all night. I don't think I can get any sleep. It's going to be too loud and too scary.

COOPER: Yes, well, Kelly McGinley, we appreciate you joining us. Good luck to you, to your family, to your pets, to everyone who is hunkered down and to all the residents here in Mobile, Alabama. It's going to a very interesting night to say the least.

Kelly, we'll try to check in with you a little bit later on. Thank you very much, Kelly.

As you know, this storm is going to be very strong. This storm has already been a killer throughout the Caribbean. Two deaths already reported here in Panama City Beach, Florida. But this is certainly not the first storm to hit this part of the Gulf Shores. There have been many storms in the past, many deadly storms in the past.

Here is a quick 360 flashback.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): September 8th, 1900, before hurricanes had names. The deadliest hurricane in U.S. History hit Galveston, Texas. Storm surges of up to 15 feet wiped out half the homes and buildings in the island town. Four hundred people survived the storm by hiding within the walls of the Sacred Heart Church, 6,000 others died. It was the deadliest storm to batter the Gulf Coast but not the last.

September 16th, 1969, Hurricane Camille, the one Gulf Coast residents remember most. The catastrophic category 5 storm slammed into southern Mississippi with record storm surges and wind gusts that by some estimates topped 200 miles per hour. Twelve people got together to celebrate the coming of Camille at the Richelieu Apartments in Pass Christine, Mississippi, not one survived.

Two hundred and 56 people in all were confirmed dead, 15,000 were left homeless. Without food, fuel or clean water, survivors saw no way out. Communications were cut off. Roads, railways, bridges and airports were underwater or just gone. Marshall law was declared. In just three hours, entire sections of the Mississippi Gulf coast seemed to simply disappear. It was by all accounts most intense storm to hit the U.S. Mainland.

September 23rd, 1979, Hurricane Frederic Devastates Dolphin Island, Alabama.

And on August 26, 1992, Hurricane Andrew cut a devastating path into the Gulf of Mexico. Finally touching down in Morgan City, Louisiana.

As Ivan makes its ominous approach, those who live on the gulf coast worry about the future, ever mindful of the past.

CHIEF SAM COCHRAN, MOBILE, AL POLICE CHIEF: I think with the recent damages in Florida, people understood the seriousness of this. And for those that were near '79 with Frederic, this is every bit of a Frederic and probably worse than a Frederic. So with that in mind, people need to understand the seriousness and the dangerousness of this storm.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It is a serious storm indeed. And people here taking it very seriously in Mobile, Alabama. I'll be back with some more thoughts after a short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So, here is the latest we know about Hurricane Ivan. It is a killer and it is coming this way, downtown Mobile, Alabama. Expected it to make landfall here or at least get up to this part sometime well after midnight, perhaps at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. time, that's local, probably about 5:00 a.m. Eastern time.

It is less than 100 miles away at this point from the shores of Alabama. From the furthest southern point of Alabama, less than 100 miles away. It is moving about 12 miles per hour and it is strong. Category 4, 135 mile an hours, sustained winds, the gusts even higher than that, up to a 165 miles an hour. We are waiting, covering it all night long. Right now to lets go to Paula Zahn in New York -- Paula.

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